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new canon printhead installed in printerReplacing Canon printheads - iPF8300 / PF-05

Head replacement for large Canon printers

After an attempt at cleaning the printhead on our large iPF8300 printer, I realised that it was actually a faulty print head, and that I'd have to spend the ~£300 or so that a new one would cost.

This really isn't a problem for me - I knew that heads wear out when I got the printer. The printer (any large printer, any make) costs money to run, but in turn I get to create superb big prints of my work.

The issues here apply to any of the large Canon Image ProGRAF (iPF) printers - indeed I've written long reviews of all the major model changes since the iPF5100, covering the 6100/6300/6350/8300/6400/6450 models (17, 24 and 44 inch width)

Head life

Our printer arrived in November 2010, and has printed under 3,000 square feet of prints. This may seem a lot, but for a three and a half year old large format printer, it's very light usage (I've actually printed much more than this - all those big printers I've reviewed were not idle, while they were here) .

Print heads have a 12 month warranty (with a maximum ink use of ~4 litres).

It's important to note that unlike Epson printers, where the head is nominally for the life of the printer, Canon's thermal printheads are counted as a consumable, and hence easy to replace.

digital black and white logoFYI: I run a LinkedIn group (~7000 members) for people interested in any aspects of Digital Black and White photography: Digital Black and White

In the UK, we often get our ink supplies for this printer from www.ipfstore.co.uk

If there is one thing that inkjet printers dislike, then it's lack of regular use. I now keep a 24" roll of cheap proofing paper permanently installed in the iPF8300, and have a diary entry that pops up every four days to remind me to print off a wide (but only 2" high) test image, if I've not used the printer in the recent past.

The nozzle test print that showed the head fault (along with excessive auto cleaning and assorted printer error codes) is this one.

Only one colour (of 12 in the whole print) is showing faintness (but no gaps) in exactly half of its pattern. If the head was just dirty I'd not expect such a precise loss of 50% of just one colour.

faulty nozzle check pattern

Although printing looked fine in the last couple of months, the printer failed a paper alignment, when creating a new media type. It also threw several errors (03800500 2F44). Hardware errors where the printer suggests "Turn off printer, wait, then turn on again" seem to be a common symptom of head failures.

I looked on a lot of forums and the like, to see if other 8300 users were experiencing similar issues. This, along with talking to a number of experienced Canon printer users suggested that the pattern seen above is a common sign of failure. Not quite bad enough for the printer to tell you that it needs a new head, but enough to cause problems.

Checking the usage of each printhead showed some 140k 'Mdot' on the left side and 245k 'Mdot' on the right, with ~1200 days of use. I'd expect more ink use on the right, just because it's where the grey inks are and I print a lot of B&W.

Before starting I needed to replace the empty carts from my attempt at cleaning...

printer low ink warning

I have a spare MBK too, but that can wait.

replacing ink carts in the iPF8300

display shows maintenance cart has 60% capacityThese are original 330ml ones that came with the printer.

This process will use ink, so make sure that your maintenance tank is at a minimum of 40% capacity and you have spare inks for any that are very low.

As ever, be wary of the figures shown as estimates of capacity or remaining ink levels.

The display only shows 20% increments.

A few spare inks are good to keep, but at the rate of printing we do here, and the cost of inks, I only keep spares for ones that are showing as low.

One of the nice features of these printers is that they have ink sub-tanks, so can keep running until the cartridge is completely empty, with no danger of running dry.

I note that some companies will buy back old 700ml carts for refilling, but no-one is interested in my pile of 330ml empties.

Head replacement

A new printhead sets me back over £300.

a new canon pf-05 printhead

I start off by selecting head replacement in the maintenance menu (just the RH head)

Up comes the slightly ominous 'absorbing ink' message - presumably emptying the old head?

menu option for head replacementemptying the old printhead

The display guides you through the steps for removing the old head, and replacing the new one.

instructions on main displayinfo about the carriage mechanism

Open the top cover, and the head assembly is ready to work on.

printhead ready to remove

Opening the head cover of the carriage shows the heads, each with two blue plastic clips.

main head locating clamps

Lifting the two clips (on the RIGHT side) shows the old head, which you can lift out.

access to the right printhead

old head is removed

Replace it with the new one, minus its orange protective caps.

new head is fitted, after removing orange protective clips

Replace the cover and it's done.

This really isn't much more difficult than fitting new ink carts - just remember to keep your fingers away from the electrical connectors on the new head, as well as the actual nozzles and ink inlet tubes.

head fitted and ready to refill with ink

Close the top cover, and the printer will do the rest.

The head is filled with ink (you may hear gurgling sounds from the 'sub tanks')

Then we get to a Nozzle check - this was what previously went on and on and then failed.

refilling progress on displaynozzle check for new head

producing a head adjustment printAll is well, and the printer now wants to do an adjustment print.

This prints a lot of fine adjustment patterns which are measured by the sensor on the print carriage.

The heads need extremely good alignment if you are not to get banding and other printer errors.

You should perform this adjustment any time you remove or replace a print head.

I'd left my 24" roll of smooth matte paper in the printer, so the print just started up.

adjustment printing

The last time I did this, was when the printer was set up in November 2010.

Here's the full print.

completed adjustment print

At this point, the MBK ink went, but as I mentioned, I'd got a spare ready.

This process had also helped fill my maintenance cart, by one 'step' ...whatever that actually means ;-)

MBK ink needs replacementafter head change, the maintenance cart capacity is 40 percent

Calibration

One final step is to run a calibration of the printer, using the autoadjust setting, under the calibration menu.

I'd normally do this every six months or so, using the same short roll of proofing paper that came with the printer.

The calibration print is measured by the sensor on the carriage.

printer calibration and linearisation

So, with just a bit of ink and a £300 print head, all is well again ;-)

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I've written this article and the one about cleaning print heads at rather greater length than I'd normally devote to fairly simple operations, in the hope that they will be of help to others who may be unfamiliar with some of the vagaries of large format printing.

If there is one thing that should come as a big sticker on large format printers for photographers and others like me who don't rely on print sales for the majority of their income, then it would be:

"Use me regularly, at least once a week"

Looking at my own experiences, and the many others I've seen on forums, from people looking for help with their printers, I've written another article 'So, you want a large format printer?' - some thoughts for photographers looking for a much bigger printer.

  • Article first published February 2014

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